Dick Cass and Sashi Brown entered the auditorium inside the Ravens’ Under Armour Performance Center wearing matching white collared shirts. Sitting next to each other at an introductory news conference, they spoke clearly, in measured tones, like the young attorneys in Washington they once were. Cass is the Ravens’ outgoing team president, and Brown his successor, and on Thursday they framed the transfer of power as a simple passing of the torch.
“It’s been just tremendous to watch him as a young lawyer and, growing up as a front-office executive, certainly have tried to model a lot of what he’s represented,” Brown said. “I’m excited about the opportunity that he and [owner] Steve [Bisciotti] have afforded me here.”
They are, as Brown acknowledged, “big shoes to fill.” The retiring Cass, 76, who will officially step down after 18 years with the organization on April 1, was Bisciotti’s first major hire after he purchased a majority share of the Ravens from Art Modell in 2004. As team president, he’s looked over every nonfootball aspect of the franchise and participated in high-level football meetings.
Brown, 45, was named Cass’ successor in early February, after what Cass described as a comprehensive search, and started transitioning into his new role this month. Brown most recently served as president of Monumental Basketball, the umbrella organization established by Monumental Sports & Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis that oversees operations for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the NBA G League’s Capital City Go-Go.
But it is his football background that drew so much attention to his hiring. Brown was the Cleveland Browns’ executive vice president of football operations from 2013 to 2017, and effectively served as general manager in 2016 and for much of 2017. In that span, the rebuilding Browns won just one game. The first question Brown took in a 20-minute session with local reporters was whether, after being fired in December 2017, he was confident he would ever get another opportunity in the NFL.
“No,” said Brown, who’d previously served as a senior vice president and general counsel for the Jacksonville Jaguars. “And I would say, I think probably enough’s been written about Cleveland and my days there, and it’s time I’ve certainly turned the page. I think it’s plenty of time that we move on from that. Today’s really about Baltimore and the Ravens, and I didn’t come out of or go into any opportunity looking for the next one.”
His ties with Cass run deep. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2002, Brown took his first job at the Washington firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where Cass was a partner. Cass, who later gave Brown a recommendation for his first NFL job, said Thursday that he was struck by Brown’s intelligence, judgment and thoughtfulness as a young attorney.
A reunion was set in motion in September, when Cass told Bisciotti that the Ravens’ 2021 season would be his last as team president. “He said, ‘Fine, but you’ve got to help me find a replacement,’” Cass recalled. Bisciotti identified two important criteria in Cass’ search: The candidate would have to be an outsider, arriving with a new perspective on the organization, and they would have to embrace the front office as it existed.
“We wanted the person coming in to be someone who was not going to bring an entourage,” Cass said. “When I came, Steve told me, ‘You come by yourself. Don’t try to bring all your friends over here. I want you to come here, get to know everybody. And after a year or so, maybe you can make some changes if you think you need to.’”
Cass said he presented Bisciotti an initial list of six or seven candidates, but he narrowed his focus on Brown. They had their own shared background, and Newsome and DeCosta told Cass they thought highly of him. Cass also remembered hearing good things from Wayne Weaver, the former owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even the Cleveland Browns’ owners, Cass said, “still think highly of Sashi.”
Before long, Cass presented Brown as his successor. After a three-hour meeting, Bisciotti offered him the job. He joined the Washington Commanders’ Jason Wright as the NFL’s only Black team presidents.
“It was not an easy decision,” Brown said of moving on from Monumental, which hired him in 2019. “I think you’re privileged when you’re in a career and you’re leaving a great opportunity for a great opportunity. … The great [reverence] with which I held the Ravens organization certainly made me open to listen to what Dick had to say. The more we sat down and I understood kind of what his role was and what they were asking me to do coming in, I became more and more comfortable and excited, truly, about the opportunity.”
Brown did not hide his ambitions for the franchise — he joked that his most pressing question to Cass was, “How’d you do it? How’d you win that Super Bowl?” — but he said his top priorities were more interpersonal than big-picture. “Your first job is to get everyone to like you,” Cass has jokingly told Brown, who said he’s still getting to know officials from every part of the facility.
But despite Brown’s experience in Cleveland with personnel decisions, he said he would be hands-off with the Ravens’ team-building plans. Contract negotiations with star quarterback Lamar Jackson, for example, would be left to the general manager.
“That’s in Eric’s hands,” Brown said. “Certainly, as Dick was, I’ll be around to bounce ideas off, but Eric’s been a master. He’s learned from a master. … Certainly, the Ravens over the years, we have been a group that has been highly transactional and really good at it. And so they’ve been able to continue to develop players and transact with players to keep the roster fresh and competitive and keep their marquee players, but also have a pipeline of young talent here, too.”
Brown’s long-term focus, he said Thursday, is on the franchise’s “sustained success.” Part of that education, Cass joked, has been the occasional reminder of just how unsuccessful Brown and Cleveland were against the Ravens. But the more time Cass has spent with Brown, the more convinced he’s become of his fit in Baltimore.
“It’s been really great to get to know him again,” he said. “It sort of reinforced my feelings about how well suited he is for this job as well.”
Source: Berkshire mont